Photo Credit: John Russell of NHLI via Getty Images

*This was originally posted January 20, 2022*

So I have been dealing with COVID over the past week but even that won’t stop me from writing Avid Thoughts. I’m not going to get into too much but my symptoms have been mostly mild and I am making a quick recovery. That means Terminal City FC will return next week.

So let’s just get into the always entertaining world of sports.

Canucks road trip and will finally play at home

So the Vancouver Canucks finished their five-game road trip through hell and now have played nine straight on the road. They haven’t played a game at Rogers Arena since December 14.

The Canucks finished their five-game Eastern trip with a 2-3 record. Considering how good their opponents are, that is actually a pretty good record. The Canucks did start the trip with three straight losses to the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Carolina Hurricanes. In those games, they didn’t look bad. If the Canucks of two months ago were playing these teams, they would have just wilted and lost 7-1 in all three of them.

Sure, things went off the rails in the third period in Sunrise and Carolina but to the Canucks credit, they were battling hard in all of those games. The thing about cup contenders is that they don’t have to play at 100%, yet they can still beat you. The 2011 Canucks have done this and so did the Tampa Bay Lightning in their game against the Canucks.

Thatcher Demko had a rough game in Sunrise but slowly returned to form. That is impressive considering he played all five games on the road trip including two back-to-back thanks to Jaroslav Halak entering the COVID protocol.

The fourth line of Tyler Motte, Matthew Highmore and Juho Lammikko showed some great forechecking and managed to get some goals. Motte is a pending UFA this summer and it would be best to trade him while he has value. As much as I like Motte, he can be replaced easily for cheap in the offseason. The Canucks even have Will Lockwood in Abbotsford and he plays a similar style of hockey to Motte.

The biggest takeaway from the road trip? Elias Pettersson is returning to form.

He played very well in Tampa Bay despite not scoring. He was making good plays and even got some good scoring chances. In Carolina, it looked like the bad run would never end as it was an unlucky game for him. In that game, he hit a post, got hit in the face by Vasily Podkolzin’s skate, broke his stick shooting and was tripped by Frederik Andersen which wasn’t called.

However, he scored two power play goals against the Washington Capitals and another goal against the Nashville Predators. The first goal in Washington was vintage Petey. He faked out the defender and beat Ilya Samsonov.

In Washington and Nashville, Pettersson wasn’t losing the puck as much as he did before. He was playing with more confidence and looked more engaged out there. Confidence can really boost a player and hopefully, it stays with Pettersson. The Canucks need his offensive contributions.

So the Canucks have Halak, Bo Horvat and Conor Garland in COVID protocol. Today, JT Miller and Thatcher Demko entered the COVID protocol. That gives the Canucks the goaltending tandem of Spencer Martin and Thatcher Demko. 

Oh, and their next three opponents will be the Panthers, the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers. It’s going to be another tough test without key players.

Canucks hire Rachel Doerrie

Vancouver also made a big hire in their front office today.

The Canucks hired Rachel Doerrie as an analyst for their analytics department. She has worked for the New Jersey Devils in their front office, worked for the Sudbury Wolves as their video coach, the director of analytics and advanced performance for York University, and a senior analyst for BMO. Doerrie has also written for The Athletic and Elite Prospects and has hosted the Staph and Graph Podcast with Mike Stephens

She announced her hire by the Canucks on the podcast today which was her final episode. 

Jim Rutherford wanted to bring more diversity in the Canucks front office and he made a solid hire. Doerrie is a very bright hockey mind with extensive knowledge of the game. Without a doubt, she will bring fresh ideas to the Canucks front office.

Apparently, Rutherford ain’t done yet. He told Thomas Drance of The Athletic that he wants to give a significant expansion to the analytics department and of course, there are rumours of a female Assistant General Manager. Could it be Jennifer Botterill? Who knows.

Having more female voices in NHL front offices is great for the game of hockey.

Why so pissy Leon?

We’ve had numerous players and coaches spar with the media in press conferences over the years in the NHL. Some include John Tortorella’s spats with Larry Brooks, Dan Boyle telling Brooks nobody likes him and Jakub Voracek calling a Flyers reporter a “weasel.”

However, this was quite the exchange between Leon Draisaitl and Jim Matheson.

Check it out below:

So nothing wrong with Matheson’s first question and asking for more clarity. However, there was no need to ask Draisaitl why he is pissy just because he didn’t answer his question with more clarity.

The Oilers have lost six straight (and are losing 2-0 to the Panthers after two periods at the time of this writing.) and maybe that is the reason why Draisaitl was pissy. 

Reporters can ask players anything and players can answer in any way they want, they don’t always give a clear answer. Matheson calling Draisaitl “pissy” doesn’t help and there is no way he would receive a clearer answer.

To be honest, if I was an Oilers fan I would be very pissy right now.

Whitecaps have traded Crepeau

The Vancouver Whitecaps have had a quiet offseason…until now.

In a surprising move, the Whitecaps have traded Maxime Crépeau to LAFC for one million dollars in general allocation money and a 2025 first-round pick. Crépeau was the Whitecaps MVP last season and was key to helping them make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Crépeau was also one of the best goalies in the MLS last season. 

The news was reported on Wednesday night and made official today. 

Apparently, Crépeau did not show up to the first two days of training camp. It seems he wanted out due to personal and family reasons. The Whitecaps sporting director and CEO Axel Schuster revealed that they wanted to give Crépeau a new contract.

“They made us aware of a special personal situation he was dealing with,” said Schuster. They were telling us that to get that solved, he doesn’t see any chance to prolong this contract. He doesn’t even know how to get his problem solved if he stays in Vancouver. This has nothing to do with money. This has nothing to do with his contract.”

LAFC only had one goalie on their roster and they desperately needed one. Also, LA is set to bring in former Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos as an assistant coach.

Thomas Hasal is going to be the Whitecaps starting goalkeeper from this point. The 22-year-old impressed at the MLS is Back tournament in 2020 and played a handful of games in 2021. 

He recorded one shutout and that was against the Houston Dynamo and won against LA Galaxy and Austin FC. However, he has let in four goals each in losses to the Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake.

Losing Crépeau is a tough pill to swallow for Whitecaps fans. It sucks to hear the team MVP want out a few weeks before the season begins. However, Crépeau wants what is best for his family so all the best to him in LA.

Apparently, There has been a troubling trend of Whitecaps MVPs leaving soon after.

I’m not sure if Hasal is ready to take the reins as the starter but he gets a chance to fill the void Crépeau had. He has shown flashes but I was thinking another year as the backup or even a loan elsewhere would benefit his development.

Let’s see what the Whitecaps do with the one million dollars they got back.

The Cowboys continue to choke in the playoffs

Believe it or not, I actually got all my Wildcard predictions right in last week’s NFL playoffs.

The Divisional Round is this weekend but the Wild Card Weekend was… well… wild. The wildest game was the Cowboys vs 49ers game. That game ended with a 49ers 23-17 win over the Cowboys who won the NFC East. In the last decade, the Cowboys have only won two playoff games. Those were against the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks.

The 49ers built themselves a 23-7 lead in the third quarter mainly due to the running from Deebo Samuels. However, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys nearly came back. 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo was making questionable throws like he usually does. The 49ers had a chance to seal the game with a QB sneak but one of the linemen moved too early.

The Cowboys then tried to move down the field to tie the game. They could have just kept throwing the ball downfield but with 14 seconds left with no timeouts, they called for a QB draw or a run from the QB. Mike McCarthy is known for making weird play calls and this was a strange one for sure.

The Cowboys then tried to get set up for the next play and the ref was even running as fast as he could to place the ball at the line of scrimmage. However, the Cowboys ran out of time and the game was over. 

That was the funniest and most bizarre end to a football game in recent memory. Why would you do a QB draw with 14 seconds left and no timeouts? Just throw the ball to the end zone! If I were Prescott, I would have flat-out ignored that call.

Also, this game was broadcasted on Nickelodeon and TSN even showed it. It was to promote the NFL to kids. There were Nickelodeon characters on the field, slime, references to the Nick shows and even Sonic the Hedgehog made a cameo. So that makes the Cowboys’ loss even funnier.

You know what else was great? Seeing the sad Cowboys fans. Another year, another Cowboys collapse. It never gets old.

Chelsea’s annual winter collapse

Every. Bloody. Year. 

Chelsea drew 1-1 away to Brighton and Hove Albion and have only one win in their last five matches and only three in their last 11. 

Every year starting with the 2017-18 season, Chelsea has a decent start and then crumbles in the winter months. It’s happened again. 

Before the game against Manchester United, they were top of the table and now sit third with Manchester City 11 points clear of the top. Last season, they were top around December 1 but fell to ninth in late January and Frank Lampard got the boot. The year before that, they had an excellent October in which Lampard won manager of the month. Chelsea struggled for the next three months. The transfer ban and losing Eden Hazard didn’t help.

In 2018-19, Chelsea went several games being undefeated and struggled from November to February. They only finished top four thanks to Hazard. (God, I miss him in a Chelsea shirt.) The year before, Chelsea was second on New Years Day and then stumbled throughout the winter and never recovered. As a result, they finished fifth.

So that makes it four titles in five years for Manchester City and five years without the title in West London. 

Chelsea looked sluggish against Brighton and have been for the last few weeks. Romelu Lukaku’s interview really has damaged the morale at the club. Speaking of Lukaku, he has looked invisible on the pitch for the past few weeks except against Aston Villa and Chesterfield in the FA Cup. Not a good look for the record signing.

Losing Ben Chilwell and Reece James to injury hurts the defence. They look weaker without them and other teams are getting more dangerous chances.   

The attack has no creativity, the midfield has looked OK but it needs some more depth. 

The January transfer window is open and the holes need to be fixed at this club.

That concludes Avid Thoughts. See you next week. Also, any suggestions or feedback would help.